El General : Bunduff Kun-Kun
taken from the album “Muevelo” on BMG (1991)
El Comandante : Mi Gente Latina
taken from the compilation album “Latino Power” on Rota (1997)
Vico C : Bomba Para Afincar and Yogurt
taken from the album “Sentimiento Hispano” on Cassetera (198?)
My trip to the D.R. was most highly excellent. Quite a piece of paradise we found down there. Yes, there’s plenty of poverty, lack of jobs, corruption, pollution and the like; but when you have the extreme privilege of being able to temporarily experience that type of environment- when you know that you’ll be getting on a plane and bouncing back to first world comfort in a matter of days- you’re able to appreciate the sun and scenery a lot more than the locals do. No day passed without an ice cold Presidente, and we spent a good bit of time playing cards with a mellow Swedish couple. Emil, a drummer with a shaggy, practically albino-blond 70’s doo, is in a dope rock band. He didn’t dig the everpresent sounds of merengue, bachata, and reggaeton nearly as much as I did. Sorry brah, I don’t really dig the rock as much as you do- but we can still be friends.
Now that Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, & Tego Calderon, are getting serious play on pop stations (at least here in NYC), I’ve been making a lot of connections between the current Latin music boom and what happened in the sixties when “salsa”- ingeniously marketed by Jerry Masucci– first became a term. Salsa removed the specific stylistic titles (like “Son”, “Guaracha” and “Plena”) and mashed it all together under one easily digestible lable. I recently copped this ridiculously dope documentary made in ’74 about the salsa explosion. Featuring the Fania All-Stars, Manu Dibango, and a young Geraldo Rivera, the film also splices in clips of traditional African dances and disturbingly humorous, early-Hollywood portrayals of Latinos. I want to figure out a way to get video clips up on here.. maybe soon. Until then, get yourself a copy.
I’ve been into reggaeton for a minute; ever since my big sister spent a year down in the D.R. and hooked me up with some original hits by Tego. As soon as I started backtracking I learned that like “salsa”, the “reggaeton” title is pretty new. This music I’m giving you today is from the days before “reggaeton”, when music like this was called “underground” or “reggae espanol”. Vico C (from Brooklyn & P.R.) and El General (from Panama) are some of the godfathers of the music, and they’re both still putting out semi-hits (nothing in comparison to the sales of newer artists like Zion Y Lennox or Don Omar). Expect to see some exclusively reggaeton labels popping up under Sony and Universal really soon.
A lot of the tunes from that time (like “Yogurt”) were heavily influenced by early house and techno too. You can hate if you want, but everytime I’ve dropped this C + C Music Factory meets El General track, the party goes buckwild. Try it yourself. The other tunes I selected are more directly coming out of Jamaican reggae, dancehall and hip hop. I don’t know much about El Comandante, but the dude got mad flow. “Bunduff Kun-Kun” uses that synth horn sound that can be deadly- it usually is- but here it sucessfully becomes a trance inducing bounce generator. The two Vico C tracks come from a CD that sounds like it was dubbed from a cassete tape- kinda weird. He looks like he’s 13 on the cover of the album. I’m not sure about the date, but I have another record from him that dates 1990, and by that time he had grown a stache and acquired a lot of gold.